Formalin not a health hazard, says FAO expert

Sridhar Dharmapuri, a Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) food analysis expert, has advised Bangladesh not to pay much attention to the presence of formalin in food items as he did not find this naturally occurring organic compound as a health hazard.

formalinWhile speaking at a scientific conference in Dhaka on Sunday, he said that Bangladesh should monitor the use of pesticides and metals in food which are more actually ‘hazardous’ to human health.

He said that the actions must be taken based on scientific evidence and not on perceptions as he found that the anti-formalin drive came after media reports which caused economic losses. He also said that the anti-formalin drive is an example where perception of risk from a substance reached such an extent that food were being destroyed on the basis of a faulty test carried out to detect a compound which itself was not a major issue at that time.

Dharmapuri also said that the instrument used was “faulty” as it was used for measuring formalin in atmosphere not in vegetables or fruits.

He also said that formalin is a naturally occurring substance that is added to fruits and vegetables and that up to 100 PPM per day can safely be consumed. Formalin is an industrial hazard and not a health hazard. It is only harmful when someone is exposed to a huge amount of formalin gas.

In case of fish “You wash them many times before cooking. Then you cook, you boil, so most of the time formalin goes away,” he said.

The FAO-backed laboratory itself developed a method and borrowed a kit from other organizations.

He said that all the tests showed different quantities of formalin in the tested food.

Professor of Medicine at Stanford University Stephen Luby, and Chief Technical Adviser of the FAO Food Safety Programme John Ryder were were also present at the conference.

– Ittefaq Report